Before there was Melanin, Pattern, and Miel, there was Carol’s Daughter.
When Lisa Price founded Carol’s Daughter in 1993, she sold body and hair care products for textured hair. Today, discussions about natural curls, coils and kinks are a much bigger part of the conversation. Up to general market brands are expanding their products for textured hair types.
Ulta Beauty’s Vice President of Merchandising, Jessica Philips, said: “The innovation and inclusiveness of hair care is amazing. We’re seeing more black founders entering the market.”
Carol’s daughter hasn’t always benefited from the changes it has brought. It will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year and has been owned by L’Oréal since 2014. The brand occasionally catches up with new competitors that connect with customers through social media. Cool Gen Z branding.
Modern marketing strategies and products meant to appeal to a new generation of consumers have helped (according to Ann Garrison, VP of Global Marketing, the Goddess Strength line, launched in 2020, became a top seller). , net sales have doubled in the last three years) brand president). It currently has plans to enter the rest of Europe next year after launching in the UK this month, with a second Gen Z-focused line launching soon in the US.
Putting founder prices at the heart of it is essential to your strategy.
“I’ve always sold, made, and promoted what I believe in, what I use in my home,” Price said. “I think people see it. They know you love what you do.”
Working in TV production, Price began creating natural products in his Brooklyn kitchen in 1993. After selling her creations at her local flea market, her business took off and landed in major retailers such as Ulta Beauty and Target, with the likes of Jay-Z, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. celebrities.
The brand’s momentum reflects broader changes among black Americans in the 2000s. They were spurred by safety concerns about chemical products and the exposure of gritty hair in the media, replacing chemical emollients with products that let hair wear naturally, according to market research firm Mintel. , sales of chemical relaxers fell 40% from 2008 to 2018. By 2014, Carol’s Daughter had net sales of her $27 million and sold products through hundreds of retail outlets across the United States.
L’Oréal then answered the phone.
In 2014, Price sold his company to the beauty giant for an undisclosed amount and remained involved in the brand’s day-to-day operations. The exit was intended to provide the company with the necessary infrastructure to reach the next level of growth. But scaling a brand can prove to be more difficult than expected.
The acquisition comes at a time when a flurry of new brands targeting the same customers hit the market. In the 2010s, start-ups such as Camille Rose, Mielle Organics and Bouclème entered the textured haircare space, later joining names like Bread Beauty Supply, Pattern and Melanin.
Many of these brands were popular with younger consumers.Mielle and Melanin were founded by natural hair influencers who already had sizable followers on social media.Like Bread and Bouclème. Other brands have hit the market with contemporary branding and Instagrammable packaging.
“These brands all launched and were really targeting black consumers, but they were telling the same story as Lisa, so we had to work harder to break through,” Garrison said. said.
The rise of social media has allowed consumers to connect directly with brands. As a result, community engagement has quickly become an integral part of the crowded and fast-moving beauty market, says Ghanaian-British entrepreneur and angel investor in her hair care brand Afrocenchix. One Nicole Crentsil said:
“Many founders don’t necessarily take into account the changing consumer landscape all the time, and they don’t always take into account how essential branding and community are when building a business. “It’s not just how you speak to your community, but how it speaks to you,” she told BoF in a previous interview. what is you [as a brand] You have to plug them in as well. ”
Amid new competition and a rapidly changing beauty industry, sales of Carol’s Daughter declined.
Carol’s Daughter was also grappling with another challenge. It was to be owned by L’Oreal, a large white-owned company, while maintaining the authenticity and DNA of a black-founded brand for the black community.
Following the acquisition, Price received criticism from some social media users who claimed Carol’s Daughter was operating as part of a corporate beauty structure that historically ignored Black Americans. The backlash has been particularly difficult for Price.
“Eventually, we get to where Black-owned L’Oreal and Black-owned Unilever are, and when other companies look for strategic partners to help grow their businesses, they can go to that business. They look like them,” Price said. “But we are not there yet.”
In 2018, Carroll’s Daughter began “very focused strategic work” to optimize its business model and drive growth, Garrison said. This means doubling down on product innovation, introducing new products such as the water-to-foam wash day delight shampoo and the Goddess Strength line, which hit the market in early 2020. (Goddess Strength) The Sa franchise is now the brand’s best-seller, with double-digit year-over-year growth, according to Garrison.)
Additionally, the brand has rethought its marketing, focusing on Price as the founder and Price as the ongoing manager of the brand. (as opposed to other major L’Oreal brands like Maybelline, which typically sell online through third-party retailers).
“The ‘big L’Oreal model’ is the model that doesn’t fit Carol’s Daughter,” says Garrison. “We couldn’t operate like other L’Oréal brands. We had to stay indie and entrepreneurial, so we had to do things differently.”
This shift in strategy resonated during the pandemic. Salon closures forced consumers to spend more time experimenting and embracing natural textures. Garrison said Carol’s Daughter has grown steadily over the past three years, doubling her net sales. (The company declined to share current sales figures. L’Oréal does not break down individual brand sales.)
Garrison and Isar Hyacinth, L’Oréal’s European business development directors, said the brand hopes to double sales again over the next three years. And it depends on whether we can maintain relevance.
Investing more in content creation for Tiktok and Snapchat is part of our strategy. In the coming weeks, the company will launch new series aimed at younger audiences, differentiating itself from its main line by emphasizing gender fluidity and hair experimentation.
The brand plans to replicate its recent US success in new markets. It landed in the UK this month through drugstore chain Superdrug and was brought to market in partnership with Haiti 73, a black-owned creative agency based in Paris and London. The brand is also in talks with black beauty stores, Hyacinthe said.
Next year, it plans to expand across Europe, starting with France, which has the largest black population in the region. This market is not easily divisible. The natural movement of hair has led to the proliferation of local brands such as Beauté Insolente, Mango Butterful and Secrets de Lolly. The brands received an investment from PE firm Kilvest Capital Partners earlier this year.
“We definitely know the competition is tough, so we have to be unique,” said Hyacinth. Emphasizing the brand’s “30 years of expertise” is also critical to its success, Hyacinthe said.